Dear Williams Community,
I write, as I do each year, to update you on our work in sexual assault prevention and response, and to report how our disciplinary processes and other accountability processes have been used over the previous year. On the advice of the student members of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Group (SAPA), we present data from the previous year (in this case 2014-2015) each spring. Contact information for resources for those who have experienced sexual violence can be found here and at the end of this letter.
Sexual assault, sexual misconduct, relationship abuse and stalking take a terrible toll at Williams, as is the case everywhere. We must do everything we can to prevent them. Furthermore, our resources for support for those who are harmed, and processes for holding accountable those who have harmed others must be constantly reviewed and improved, so that they are strong, equitable, and effective. (More information about resources for support and processes for accountability may be found here.)
In determining how to improve, we ask both about national best practices and about the experiences of Williams students. Over the past year we have used the EphCASA survey data from early 2015 to develop new student and staff trainings that address particular needs. This includes new trainings for coaches and varsity captains, and improved bystander intervention trainings for EphVenture leaders, neighborhood leaders, JAs and seniors who live off campus. Further work this year will include strengthening professional development for student affairs staff along some of the dimensions where concerns were indicated in the EphCASA survey, as well as communicating more effectively to the campus about resources available to survivors.
In 2015 the college also undertook a review of our disciplinary process, surveying and then interviewing complainants, respondents, support people, and witnesses about their experiences with the new investigation and adjudication process that was put in place in 2013. The review identified areas for improvement in communication and timing, and we’ve developed new resources for those involved in processes to address these issues.
This year we are also taking steps to increase the safety of all-campus parties from the perspective of sexual assault prevention, determining which locations, layouts, and placements of Campus Safety officers and staff work best, and addressing dangerous traditions that have developed among some teams and campus clubs. This work is part of a multi-institutional prevention grant recently funded by the Department of Justice.
Another key change this year is Williams’ policy regarding reporting. In order to best address sexual assault and misconduct, it’s critical to know about incidents that occur. For this reason, the college has designated all employees as “responsible employees” under federal law. This means that any employee who becomes aware of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, dating or domestic violence, or stalking must report it to the Title IX coordinator, Toya Camacho, or to one of the deputy Title IX coordinators (Sarah Bolton, Denise Buell and Martha Tetrault). Such a report doesn’t require the individual(s) harmed by the incident to participate in an investigation if they don’t wish to do so. It does, however, allow us to reach out to ensure they are aware of support resources and options for on- and off-campus accountability. At the same time, such reporting allows us to better observe patterns and direct prevention efforts accordingly.
We are very fortunate to bring to this work Toya Camacho, who started on August 20th as the new Assistant Vice President and Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, who has been central to many of our efforts this year. Toya is also responsible for ensuring that our resources for faculty and staff who may experience violations of the sexual misconduct policy are effective. The processes for sexual misconduct concerns involving faculty and staff have been completely revised based on what we’ve learned in developing our processes for students, and those changes were approved by the faculty in May 2015. It is our goal to have reporting and adjudication processes that are supportive, accessible, equitable, and effective for all involved, and we will continue to review and revise them over time to improve the safety of the community.
To the reporting on our student disciplinary processes: In the 2014-2015 school year, the college received 10 reports of sexual assault, as well as one of dating violence, three of stalking, and one of retaliation. Of these 15 cases, 13 involved people who were still members of the college community, and so were eligible for college accountability processes. The other two involved individuals who are now alumni or were not members of the Williams community.
Of the 13 individuals reporting these incidents, six have chosen to take part in investigation and adjudication through the college as of now (three cases regarding sexual assault, two cases regarding stalking, and one case regarding retaliation.) Investigation and adjudication through the college remain an option as long as the respondent is a member of the college community.
Two of the three cases of sexual assault resulted in findings of responsibility, as did one of the two cases of stalking and the case of retaliation. All students found responsible for these violations were separated from the college. One student was expelled, and the others were suspended for terms ranging from one semester to two years.
|Category of Conduct||Number Pursued in Discipline Process/Total Number Received||Findings of Responsibility|
In addition, one student was interim-suspended from the college for sexual assault, which means they were removed from campus prior to a hearing. (Interim suspension is a process used if a student is judged to present too much of a risk to remain on campus during the investigation and adjudication process.) They did not participate in a hearing at that time, and so no adjudication process was undertaken. This student will not be permitted on campus until an investigation and adjudication has been completed and it is determined whether it is appropriate for them to be here.
Seven students who reported assaults during 2014-2015 have chosen not to participate in disciplinary or legal processes as of this time. Of those, five worked with the Dean’s Office to arrange accommodations to increase their well-being on campus, including academic arrangements, housing changes, no-contact orders, and advisory conversations. Such accommodations are available to all students who report sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, or dating violence, whether or not they pursue the college disciplinary process or the legal process. (For more information on when the college may need to pursue disciplinary processes even if the survivor chooses not to do so, please see http://titleix.williams.edu/confidentiality-privacy/.)
The reports from 2014-2015 are deeply troubling. That 15 students report being harmed in these ways at Williams in a single year appalls me. We also know that—due to the difficulties of reporting—this is likely only a small fraction of the incidents that actually took place. Nationally, and at Williams, only 5 to 10 percent of assaults are reported. This prevalence of harm in our community is completely unacceptable. Using the results of the EphCASA and disciplinary process review, as well as continued study of best practices nationally, we must act with urgency and determination to reduce—and ultimately eliminate—sexual violence. The work accomplished this year has been the result of the deep collaboration and dedication of students, and staff and faculty in many parts of the college. This unrelenting commitment of the community is our greatest strength, and I am profoundly grateful for it.
Sarah Bolton, Dean of the College and Professor of Physics
Resources for those who have experienced sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking:
- Sexual Assault Survivor Services (SASS) 413-597-3000 (SASS is staffed by Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Meg Bossong, Asst. Director of the Davis Center justin adkins, Health Educator Donna Denelli-Hess, and Chaplain Rick Spalding
- Campus Safety and Security 413-597-4444
- Toya Camacho, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Title IX Coordinator 413-597-3301
- Meg Bossong, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response 413-597-4977
- Donna Denelli-Hess (Health Educator) 597-3013
- Rape and Sexual Assault Network of Williams (student-run peer support network) 413-597-4100
- Williams College Health Center 413-597-2206
- Williams College Psychological Counseling 413-597-2353 (or on call 24/7 through Campus Safety at 597-4444)
- Williamstown Police Department 413-458 – 5733
- Elizabeth Freeman Center (off campus) 413-499-2425
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE
- National Sexual Assault Online Hotline – https://ohl.rainn.org/online/
- For a list of resources with particular focus on the needs of LGBTQ survivors, see http://barcc.org/information/resources-online/glbt
- For resources with particular focus on the needs of male survivors, see malesurvivor.org.